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March 2011, USA
21 - 26 March, Yellowstone National Park
Two days of driving north through Arizona and Utah brought us to
Plain City, where we picked up our warm clothes at Claudia's cousin and
left our flip-flops and shorts in their basement. We left on Sunday
morning and six hours later we were in West-Yellowstone. The amount of
snow here was amazing. It is hard to believe this will all melt away
Normally we can take the west
entrance of Yellowstone park, but this one is still closed, so we had to
drive to Bozeman, Livingston and Gardiner for the north entrance. That
made our trip 4 1/2 hours longer!
There was still a lot of snow in the
park and we saw white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, coyote, bison,
bighorn sheep and pronghorn.
This might seem a lot of wildlife, but we have visit
this park so many times, that we would rather see some wolves. We
cruised the park, but just could not find them at close range.
The winter scenery is gorgeous, especially after it started to snow on
the second day. We took pictures of the bison covered in snow, something
we always wanted to do. The next day the sun was shining and the
temperature dropped to a nippy 14F.
After more days
of seeing hardly anything we were getting pretty desperate and bored.
Are we losing touch? Normally we are always lucky to be at the right
place at the right time. Had camping life in Mexico made us too lazy,
having the boa constrictors hanging in the tree above the trailer,
hummingbirds flying around our head and whales jumping in the ocean seen
from our camp site...
We have two more days left, where could we go? We started searching the
Internet and maps, but there is more snow everywhere. We decide to give
the park another try.
morning we cruised the Mammoth
area again and continued to the Lamar Valley. At 10am we saw a single
wolf walking 30 yards from the road! That was promising! She was not
wearing a collar and looked pretty. We parked at a turnout and saw that
two coyotes spotted her and took off.
our view the wolf ran into a lone cow elk. The wolf tried to scare the
elk, but the elk stood her ground. The wolf kept approaching her, even
trying to ‘play’ with her (of course thinking about brunch), rolling
around in the snow, but the smart elk did not move. They were sometimes
nose to nose. It started snowing again and the 600mm was shaking in the
wind. Hard for PJ to make pictures, but neat to watch the interaction
between the animals. We wondered what was going through their minds.
After 50(!) minutes the wolf
finally gave up and continued east. We were the first ones to pass her
and drove to the next pull out. We had noticed a lone elk grazing here
every day. She was doomed to become a meal. We could see the dot wolf
getting bigger and coming closer to our pull out. The wolf saw the elk,
ran toward her and grabbed her by the throat. They rolled down the hill
and within 30 seconds the elk was dead!
This was more like the African way of
killing an animal; quick, almost painless and the elk probably did not
realize what happened to her.
I was hand holding the 600mm through the
window and of course the pictures I took were not in focus, because I
was exclaiming WOW too much, but what a thing to witness.
The carcass started to slide
down the hill and we could not see them from the truck anymore, so we
walked the road to get a better point of view. The wolf had just begun
her brunch, but it started snowing again.
Suddenly we heard hooves clicking on the asphalt. Six bison were
galloping along the turnout towards us. Shit, we were halfway the road,
without cover of the cars! Staying put was not an option, with the bison
coming closer. Getting off the road was also not possible; the snow next
to the road was waist deep…so we walked away from them to a car that had
stopped on the road to look at the wolf. We were now too close to the
wolf, 90 yards, (that is what she thought, not us) and the wolf left the
carcass and went up the hill. We took cover behind the car and waited
for the bison to pass us. Then we walked back to the truck and waited
for the wolf to return to the carcass. She did that after 15 minutes.
It started snowing and during
one of the storms, with no visibility the wolf sneaked out on us and
never came back. Three coyotes took turns on the carcass and picked it
We left late afternoon. The ‘first’ elk was still by herself, trying to
find food in the thick layer of snow.
Because yesterday was a
reasonable good day (still not photography wise) we gave the park one
more try. We drove all the way to the east, but nothing was happening.
The carcass was clean and a pack of wolves were sleeping dots on a hill.
On our way back to the entrance we suddenly saw a heap of ravens, right
where the ‘first’ elk was. No elk around. Did the wolf brought her pack
and killed the elk last night to have her revenge? We will never know.
We left the park at 11am and
drove to West Yellowstone to spend the night at Claudia's aunt and
uncle’s house. They had left for a week in Mexico, but left their front
door unlocked for us! PJ first had to clean the driveway a bit before we
could enter. We both took a long hot shower. The next morning more snow
was falling. It will be long summer before my relatives can see their lawn
After three weeks in Holland we are back in the USA
and head north to Yellowstone.
May 2011, USA
29 April 2011 - 10 May 2011 Yellowstone National Park
First impression in the park: lots of snow, cold and sunny. Besides snowy
bison we do not see much wildlife.
For a week we hunt together with Jackie and Dave, who flew in
from Oklahoma. We know Jackie for years from Hyder, Alaska, were she would spent
her summer holiday with the kids. Dave never liked watching fishing grizzlies
for hours/days at the time. He would rather go fishing. But last year Jackie
finally persuaded him to join her into a trip to Yellowstone. He enjoyed it;
cruising around, drinking coffee/beer in our camper and some BS-ing about
nothing. So this spring he joined her again.
The next person who added up to our little group is the Englishman Tony
We also know him from Hyder and we enjoy his dry British humor and his colorful
stories about his world travels.
Unfortunately, to us he will be known as 'that bloke who
forgot to put his camper in park and saw it disappearing in a glacier lake!!!'.
We still tease him with it.
When also Dave and Jenny, our friends from Colorado with whom
we have to been to South Africa, join our group the party can start. We all
squeeze into our camper for a cup of home made soup.
Enormous snowdrifts along the road
in the park
from the shore.
When we drove by the next
left on the shore.
This harsh winter seems to be never ending and
fresh snow is still falling. The snow drifts along the roads are
sometimes over 16 feet high!
PJ drives into a snow bank while turning and bents the bumper and
crushes the step. A bit difficult to get in and out of the camper now...
The snow plow is busy every day
The late spring is taking its toll from the animals. A bison walking on
his last legs, drops into the sage. Slowly we watch him die,
occasionally convulsing with its legs. The next morning a coyote wanders
by and begins to gnaw at the carcass. The bears and wolves finish him
off, but by then the rangers have moved the carcass much further into
the field and it is not interesting for us anymore.
After a week we finally find a grizzly bear. And
it is a good one; a beautiful creature who his busy with the carcass of
a moose. Most times the bear has four legs in the air! What a comical
Click here for a YouTube movie of this bear:
who called me comical?
A gorgeous red fox comes along, but takes off when the bear
gets to close.
|But the funniest moments are when the
bear rolls around in the fur of the moose and we sometimes see
only moose hair and bear paws. This bear makes up for the bear
The next day we see more
grizzlies, but far out.
birds of prey
The Golden Eagle has a wing span of 78''. Here is he
nibbling on a duck.
Race Flicker Osprey Bald Eagle
on a bison carcass
But also cuddly animals like the marmot and an
In the meantime we also have spent a day at the
Ford garage in Bozeman to have two new fuel injectors installed.
|May 2011, USA
11 May 2011 Yellowstone National Park
We drove a long stretch through the park, but could not find
anything. So we decided to go through the East Entrance to Cody to
stock up with supplies. This town is about one hour outside the
park. When we returned to the park, the East gate was closed!
Three snow avalanches had totally blocked the Sylvan pass. A
park ranger narrowly escaped the snow heap by jumping out of his
truck, but his pick-up was partly buried under the avalanche.
One of the avalanches was 70 yards wide and 20-30 feet high.
It could have been us driving there...
Pictures from National Park Service
It is going to take days before the
pass is passable, so the East Entrance will be closed indefinitely. With
the Cooke City entrance (northeast gate) also closed this meant we had
to drive 250 miles (!!) around the park to be able to get back into
Yellowstone! Six hours later we were back in the park at the Gardiner
12 May 2011 Yellowstone National Park
PJ had promised uncle Bill to help him planting trees in his
yard. As fast as we could we drove through the park to West
Yellowstone, ignoring a foraging grizzly bear along the way. Bill
has started yesterday, so most of the hard labor had been done.
The warmer weather has almost melted all the snow in their yard.
It is 62F and good time to linger outside. At around 3pm they are
finished and we decided to go back to the park to see if that grizz
is still around. He had not waited for us, so we had
dinner at Mammoth outside at a pick nick table, while Tony
13 May 2011 Yellowstone National Park
Again we could not find any wildlife, so we drove to the heart of
the park (Fishing Bridge). Fellow photographers had just seen a grizzly
bear with a spring cub. Great! We had to wait for another four hours
before the bear and coy showed up again.
What a cutie! A befriended
photographer told us that yesterday he had seen a big grizzly bear on a bison
carcass in the river. He showed us the carcass and we decided to wait
closer to the carcass, we had to walk 50 yards through a forest. But the
snow was still five feet thick and slowly melting, so very porous. When
we checked out the path a few times we now and then dropped to our knees
into snow. I decided to wear my insulated winter boots instead of my
which are stored between the camper and the bed of the truck.
I had wear then last week for the first time this year.
The bear suddenly appeared, so I quickly slide into my snow boots. In
one of the boots the inner felt lining felt weird, but I had no time to
look at it, we wanted to be at a spot along the river as quickly as
possible. Meanwhile, several photographers had taken all the best places
and we had to settle with shooting through the trees. I tried to create
a kind of platform for PJ and I carefully stamped the snow with my
boots, with minimal noise. However it was annoying that one inner boot
was still crooked. I made room for PJ and stepped aside and dropped to
my crotch into the snow! PJ was too busy photographing the bear, which
was very nervous of noises and the clicking of the cameras. I could not
move and if I tried to push myself up I even sank further into the snow.
My legs became very cold and my crotch wet. The bear decided to call it
a day and finally PJ could save me from my critical situation.
walked back to the camper and immediately I took off
my snow boots and tried to push the inner boot back into shape. I stuck
my hand into the boot and felt something cold! Gross, what was that? I
held the boot upside down an three dead mice fell on the laminated floor!!!
I screamed to PJ that he should come and see this. I held the
boot upside down again and there were two more dead mice. With some
paper towel around my hand I stuck my hand into boot and pulled
out two more mice, but these ones were all squashed and bloody. I
immediately began to retch. The idea that I had been pounding through
the snow with SEVEN dead mice in my boot, brought up the bile. PJ helped
me to clean out the vermin, but even one hour later I still started to
gag when I thought of it. When had these mice come in? We wondered, we have
been constantly in snow. Fortunately the mice were already frozen
to death before I stepped into my boots.
next day we went to the same spot and did not see wildlife the whole
16 May 2011
We are staying with Bill and Donna in West Yellowstone. We woke up
with a hint of fresh snow on the ground and the temperature had dropped
to 28F. A 'perfect' day to start Project Flatbed, but not really.
The architect of our model camper cannot be a camper himself,
otherwise he would not have designed the camper so thoughtlessly. The
weight of the camper is all on the left side: a fridge and freezer, the
spacious counter with lots of storage underneath, two 7 gallon propane
tanks and the cupboards above the counter (which even has room for a
television). On the right side is the couch, shower and toilet. Not at
all evenly spaced out. Somebody told us jokingly that the only way to
balance the weight is to travel with an overweighed American sitting on
The lack of balance caused our camper to start tearing apart, the
counter is tilting and beams are breaking! Our camper definitely need
support and PJ thinks the solution is a flatbed with rails. It will also
give us more storage space, by which we can store the heavy stuff (like
the generator) on the left side. After we have taken off the camper, the
bed of the truck have to be removed.
PJ removes all the nuts and bolts, replaced electricity and the bed
can be lifted off.
Uncle Bill used his tractor to
lift the bed. When we will sell the truck, the bed has to come back and
fortunately we can store it at Bill's place.
The pick-up is now ready to be
brought to the welder.
|19 May 2011
Meanwhile, Bill and Donna went to Utah for three weeks, PJ
reinforced the camper and I worked at the website. Bill had
asked us to try to keep the bison out of the yard. Yellowstone
is almost 5000 square miles and has no fences. If the snow is
too high in the park, the bison migrate out of it in search of
food. We saw them regularly. But now Bill has just planted 14
new trees and he obviously does not want the bison to damage
them. Not that bison eat pine, but they love to rub their big
head through the branches or to get rid of their old winter coat
against the trunk. The new trees will never survive the scratch.
I was just going to take a shower and I was waiting for the
water to heat up. When I looked out of the window I saw a big
bull bison grazing on the lawn! I did not hesitate one second,
slide into a sweater and run in my bare behind to the kitchen to
grab a cookie sheet and a spoon. I opened the the door and
started banging the spoon on the sheet. The bison ran off. I am
not sure what scared him: the noise or seeing my half naked
At night again we had to chase away some bison off the property,
this time I kept my clothes on.
A few days later it happened again. PJ threw rocks at the bison
and the bull was so annoyed that he almost pushed down on the
new trees. Oops!
||Continued "Project Flatbed"
The flatbed is welded and ready. PJ spray painted the frame.
He made a wooden flooring and the camper can be put back on the
truck. We only had millimeters clearance! Left to do is making
doors, but for now we have achieved a lot.
This is the extra
storage we have created
Not yet finished, but for now I am done...
Meanwhile we could borrow Bill's
Lexus and we visit the park now and then. The bears are getting active
and we even saw a wolf a couple of times. A black wolf tried to grab a
bison calf, but mum stood her ground. And we saw a boxing match between
Click here for a YouTube movie of the wolf:
3 - 15 June 2011,
Grant Teton and Yellowstone National Park
|From Utah we drove north and
decide to go through Grand Teton National Park. We normally only
come here in the fall for the rut of the moose. But we are
pleasantly surprised by the park!
We arrived in Jackson Hole on Friday night and drove into the park
early morning. We saw a new born elk and ran into friends. We got
updated about the whereabouts of grizzly #610 and her two spring cubs
where she had last been seen two days ago. The whole day we
are driving around putting 250 miles on the teller, chasing black bear
jams which dissolve by the time we get there. Very frustrating! At the
end of the afternoon we ran into friends again and start driving
together. We saw a small jam of cars and tourists and stopped. The first part of this story
is hearsay: some tourist saw a cow elk running through the meadows and
were wondering was was chasing it...No, she was not chased, the cow was
chasing two grizzly spring cubs!! The cubs were running for their lives
and ended up in a tree, about 130 yards from the road. That is when we
The cubs were screaming their
hearts out, no grizzly mum in sight. After about 10 minutes we
could see the sow grizzly, about a mile or more out. We could
clearly see her bloody nuzzle and she was running through the
sage. Apparently she had taken down a elk calf and pissed off
the cow elk, who started chasing her cubs. Why did she keep
eating instead of protecting her cubs? Only a week ago she had
lost her cubs for at least 24 hours, you would think that she
would not let that happen again. We will never known what was
going on in her head.
We can see the grizzly running through the meadow, nose on the ground,
going in the wrong direction.
"Oh no, not again" I am thinking.
"Yes, yes" the tourists are cheering, "she is picking up their scent,
that is exactly were the cubs went"
The grizzly makes a sharp curve and comes running towards the tree. We
all hold our breath. The cubs are sensing that mum is coming and start
to climb down. The reunion is out of sight, but the sow gives us a
glimpse when she start nursing them on a snow bank. She looks relieved
and when one of the cubs start to wander, she calls it back. After the
nursing she starts walking away, but after a couple of steps she falls
down again and cuddles her babies. She repeats this a couple of time.
Then it is time to cross the meadow and while she climbs the steep snow
hill we make some last pictures of her and the cubs. What a bear!
For the evening we are invited for a
barbecue at the campground. Here we meet all these new friends, who live
in Jackson Hole and surroundings.
just found his long lost sister Melissa!
Not everybody was born in Jackson
Hole and PJ wonders out loud why they picked this place to live (on the
south side of Teton NP). If we had a choice we would like to live in
Gardiner, than we would have access to Yellowstone National park anytime
and did not have to wait until the roads opens. The whole group fires
up! They claim: "Teton National Park has everything; nice park rangers,
beautiful mountains, bears, moose, owls, wolves, foxes and coyote
puppies. Yellowstone is crowded with tourists and the park rangers are
We think that is not a fair opinion, because the south entrance of
Yellowstone opens half of May and that is when the Jackson Holers are
coming to the park. We have been 'playing' in Yellowstone already for a
whole month without much tourists.
But they are right: Grand Teton has
it all! The next morning (a little bit later than normal, because of a
slight hangover) reveals the park itself in its full glory.
And we see four wolves, close to the
In the afternoon we hear a call on
the scanner for assistance at a bear jam. A grizzly sow with triplets is
grazing along the highway! It is the famous 15 year old grizzly #399
with red ear tags. She has been studied by biologists for years. This is
the second time she has triplets. She is used to traffic and seems
confident with the row of cars and the audience.
|I only need five more minutes
before dinner is ready when we are warned that #399 is visible
again. De pots and pans are dumped into the sink and we drive to
the marked spot. She is close again, only more difficult to
photograph in the shade of the forest. PJ sat in the truck and
photographs the four months old cubs and the sow through the
open window. The only thing that is missing is a nice family
When all the action is over I heat up our dinner.
We have a pizza with our new friends Dan, Melissa en
We we cannot let Yellowstone down and drive north to
spent three days in this park. We take pictures of a sow grizzly with
the cutest spring cub. He likes to climb on mothers back, while she is
taking a nap.
And we take pictures of a grizzly at 'Steamboat Point'
and then I realize what I miss at the Tetons:
Back in Grand Teton NP our new friends told us that just outside Grand Teton National Park in the
Bridger-Teton National Forest a grizzly sow with a spring cub has been
giving a show.
We went to that place and the bears are still around. We have been photographing this bear family for three days and little
Elvis is like a bouncing ball, running around, playing with his mum,
climbing trees and being just a very happy cub. His Elvis' moves are
unforgettable, shaking his hips while standing on his hind legs and
moving his arms like Elvis. There is a lot of loving and kissing between
the bears. It was such a joy to watch, film and photograph them with
just a handful of photographers.
Click here for a YouTube movie
Unfortunately the bears were cracker shelled by Fish
& Game when they came to close to the road. Little Elvis changed after
that, he was not an unprejudiced cub after that.
The worse thing was when we were reported feeding the bears! I think you
cannot make a more offensive accusation to wildlife photographers than
that. We have had it with ignorant tourists!
June 12 2011 - Grand Teton National Park
It was 7.30pm and we were driving the Teton Park Road south to Jackson
Hole. It had been a rainy day and we had not seem much. The scanner
started to crack up and we heard: "Wildlife patrol, on the northwest
corner of Lake turnoff is a grizzly. Can you check it; it is #610 with
her cubs". We could not believe our ears, hurray for the scanner and the
person who was so specific. We made a u-turn as soon as possible and
drove back. We still had an hour of daylight left. A big crowd had
gathered and the sow was hiding with her cubs in the high willows. We
parked our camper and started to walk along the road. Next thing we know
the grizzly came out of the willows right where we were and made a
sprint and started to pound the ground. In my innocence I thought she
had a ground squirrel, but the 'squirrel' started to mewling and mama elk
made an appearance. The grizzly had caught an elk calf! The rangers
moved us to the other side of the road, which made it about 70-80 yards
away. The calf kept crying for a while while the cow was running around.
After the grizzly silenced the calf, the cow disappeared.
The sow had dragged the calf into a ditch and we could see the back of
the grizzly and the cubs popped up their bloody faces. I was surprised
that these cute four months old cubs already ate meat. The setting sun
came through the mountain peaks and we could take gorgeous pictures
(considering the circumstances). Right when it got to dark to take
pictures, the bear left the scene.
The next morning she was back, although she might had caught another
calf. PJ saw a cow acting nervous in the area. The family crossed the
road and went north towards Christian Pond meadows. We heard the mewling of
an elk calf and a couple of elk cows were moving around nervously. The
killer machine strikes again. Click here for a YouTube movie of the
Our adventures in the Grand Teton and Yellowstone
National Park become to an abrupt end when we got the message from home
that Claudia's brother-in-law is dying from cancer. Claudia takes a
plane home immediately, PJ follows a week later. We stayed in the
Netherlands for six weeks.
In July we read an interesting article about the two sow grizzlies we
have been following:
Grand Teton National Park News
releases by Jackie Skaggs
July 25 2011
Grand Teton National Park
biologists report that an interesting turn of events occurred late
last week when two female grizzly bears apparently “exchanged” one
cub with one another. The two female grizzlies are related (mother
and daughter), and have occupied overlapping home ranges since they
both emerged from hibernation with their newborn cubs this past
spring. The adoption or fostering of cubs between two female bears
is rare, but not unprecedented. This behavior was documented in an
article written by Mark A. Haroldson, Kerry A. Gunther, and Travis
Wyman in a Yellowstone Science 2008 publication.
Fifteen-year-old grizzly bear
#399 (a research number assigned to her in 2001) gave birth to three
cubs during hibernation this past winter. Over the spring and summer
months, she has traveled with her trio of cubs throughout a home
range that she has occupied for several years. Five-year-old grizzly
bear #610, born to #399 in 2006, also gave birth to two cubs of her
own this year. These two female grizzly bears were previously
radio-collared as part of a decades-long research study conducted by
the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team. Bear #399 last wore a
collar in 2006 and #610 shed her collar in 2010. Colored ear-tags
remain on the bears, providing continued identification in the
The apparent adoption of a
single cub occurred on or about July 21; the noteworthy event
was confirmed by observations of #610 traveling with three cubs
in the Willow Flats area of Grand Teton National Park, and later
observations of #399 with just two cubs in an area further north
of Willow Flats.
Biologists are not sure what
caused the exchange of offspring, or whether this will be a
temporary or permanent situation. However, these observations
offer a fascinating glimpse into bear behavior. Scientists
speculate that cub adoption in bears is an adaptive behavior
that increases cub survival when they become separated from
their mothers as a result of conflicts with other bears, the
death of a mother, or other disruptive events.
The two female grizzly bears
and their respective cubs have lingered near park roads over
several months time, allowing visitors and local residents an
exceptional opportunity to view wild bears in their natural
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